Dogs are naturally “den” animals and feel safe when they’re in their “hiding space.” A lot of dog owners see the benefit of crate training their dog because it gives them a place to burrow. One of the main uses of crates is when you are house training a puppy or new dog. You want to associate the crate with something positive so that your dog will want to go in it. Below are some tips on how to make the crate a positive place for your dog.
Choosing the Correct Size
Picking out the right size crate is an important first step. If you are using a crate to housetrain a dog, you want to make sure the crate isn’t so large that part of it can be used as the bathroom. You want to make sure your dog can just stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. Once a dog is housetrained, you can graduate to a larger crate.
Commanding In and Out
A great way to accustom your dog to a crate is with positive reinforcement, using treats and commands. You can say a simple command like “bed” or “crate” and show them a treat. However, you always want to say your command first then throw your treat in. This will lead to your dog automatically going into the crate when they hear the command.
Creating a Calming Space
You want to make the crate a calming space for your dog to be in. Add a mat to lay on, or a shirt with your scent on it. This will help your dog get comfortable inside the crate. You can also start feeding them inside the crate, or giving them special treats while they’re in there. They will start to associate the crate with good things.
Duration in the Crate
The amount of time you have your dog in their crate is important. If you start to leave your dog in their crate for too long, it could cause anxiety and they will start to think of the crate as a negative place. Be patient and do not make your dog stay in the crate longer than they are comfortable with. Start slowly by putting them in their crate for as long as possible, and then work your way up to leaving the home with them in their crate. A good rule of thumb for puppies is one hour in the crate for every month of age. So a three month old puppy can be left in a crate for about 3 hours, maximum.
A crate can be used as punishment, but only as a last resort. You don’t want to start using the crate as a time out, multiple times a day, as this will cause your dog to associate the crate with negative feelings. Instead, use it sparingly, and if your training was successful, your dog will know that they need to calm down once they are in there.
Once you can trust your dog alone in the house, you can stop using the crate during the day, and just leave the door open for them. Having a space your dog knows is theirs will help them feel more secure and safe when they’re feeling anxious.
To learn more about crate training or for more tips, please visit our website or call us at 602-559-5500.